Digital (Dis)connections – Interactive Installation at the Royal Academy London

Students from the BA (Hons) Spatial design year 2 – Calvin Lok, Chin Chin Lam and Aitor Fernandez Hidalgo – took part in the Digital (Dis)connections event at the Royal Academy on Saturday 24th October. This event linked to the Ai Wei Wei exhibition showing at the RA and ‘inspired by Ai Weiwei’s infamous blog and prolific use of social media, [the Royal Academy hosted] an evening of talks, performances, installations and more that challenge our contemporary use of the internet, and imagines future applications of digital technologies.’ (source: https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/digital-dis-connections). The project was run in collaboration with the Students Union at UAL and the RCA.

From the designers, Calvin, Chin Chin and Aitor:

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I(WE) AM(ARE) ANONYMOUS , is an interactive video installation that seeks to reveal the duality and complexity of being anonymous. On one hand, there is a freedom and power that cannot be culled, on the other, credibility and responsibility become trivial. The installation will invite users to create content which will be visually broadcast in the exhibition space while in an anonymous state. The installation comes in two parts, creation and propagation.

The creation component is an “anonymous zone” where users can create content under the guise of anonymity. Within the “anonymous zone”, the participant can see outside, but the onlookers will not be able to know who the participant is. This represents the power of anonymity. In this “anonymous zone”, the user will be filmed, but his face will not be shown. This emphasizes the idea of hiding in plain sight through anonymity and the freedom it affords.

In the propagation component, the scene in which the participants will be filmed is as such; an unknown person walks towards a lone keyboard. Their face concealed by a “mirror mask” as they type some words on the keyboard. Subsequently, the person leaves the booth. This scene will be broadcast on the wall opposite the creation component. The “mirrored mask” would have the images of the onlookers reflected upon it, and represents the idea that an individual becomes the collective and the collective is the individual through anonymity, thus both trivializing and empowering their existence. Additionally, as the content will not be filtered, it will reflect the presence or absence of social responsibility and morality once I(WE) AM(ARE) ANONYMOUS.

Process-wise, the following is a recount of the process we had from start to finish:

We started by establishing an idea based on the exhibition brief. After bouncing it back and forth the three of us, we finally decided on one which we really liked(that one above), and then proceeded to elaborate on it. I came up with the initial idea of representing an anonymous state more tangibly. I wanted it to be extremely digital and software based, and the initial idea I had in mind would have had a very plain outcome, but with more interaction. Aitor felt that it was not visually impressive enough, and proposed that we translated it into a physical space. We came up with many ideas after that, from hanging boxes with screens just big enough for your head to fit in to raised platforms with our body visible, but your face hidden. Chin chin proposed much of the visual outcome and communication which culminated in the space shown on the photographs.

When it came to construction, we worked every Monday and Wednesday, from about 10am-6pm over the whole of October. Despite the 4 month long lead we had before the project, our space was only confirmed a month before, as well as some other details which prevented us from moving forward. But with Aitor’s experience in the 3D workshop, construction moved quickly and the resultant booth was constructed in slightly over 1 week. I then refined the software and made it fit our installation while Chin Chin worked on the visual communication of the booth. The last hurdle we had was storage and transport. As it was a large structure, we had to store it in school and then transport it to the RA. Making the structure flat-packable was a really smart decision on our part as we managed to save quite a fair bit of cash on transport.

Lastly, we had to set up for the actual event at the RA. this was more of a challenge than an actual problem as the RA staff were very helpful. We set up the installation in about 3 hours and then proceeded to test it for another 1 hour. Once we were satisfied with the outcome, we packed up, took a break and waited for the event to start.

BA-Spatial-Design_digital-disconnection02_RA_24Oct2015